Illegal Immigration: Costs — [Graham Stringer in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 12:25 pm ar 7 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Minister of State (Minister for Legal Migration and Delivery) 12:25, 7 Mai 2024

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I begin by congratulating my hon. Friend Dame Andrea Jenkyns on securing a debate on this important issue, which matters enormously to her constituents and mine, as well as to people around the country. She is a passionate campaigner on the issue. I would argue that she is strident in her beliefs and in the way she communicates them, always leaving no doubt about where she stands. I am also grateful to colleagues from across the House for their contributions, some elements of which I agree with and many elements of which I do not. I will have an opportunity to respond to those various points during my closing remarks.

There has been much focus on costs, and I will address those specific questions. First, it is important to set the issue in context. A number of factors and forces have coalesced in recent years to create a situation in which vast numbers of people across the globe are displaced and willing—and often able—to migrate in pursuit of improved prospects. I would argue that those challenges are only likely to become more acute in the years ahead. That is why it is right that the Home Secretary is leading the international conversation about what more we can do to tackle migratory flows in a co-ordinated and joined-up way, as he did in his recent speech in New York.

Candidly, the instinct to want to secure a better life is one that we can all understand and appreciate. But while we are a compassionate and sympathetic country, it is incumbent on Governments to be pragmatic about those challenges. Our resources and capacity are not unlimited. Our generosity, as we have seen reflected many times in recent years in response to various international crises, is enormous. The British people have opened their homes. Contrary to the impression that some have given during this debate, we have seen over 500,000 people granted sanctuary in recent years, which is an effort I am enormously proud of. All of us as constituency MPs are enormously proud of the efforts that our respective constituents have played as part of that national effort.

We cannot, however, accommodate everyone who wishes to come here. Saying that is not harsh or inhumane; it is just a matter of objective fact. Illegal immigration is unfair, unsafe and unsustainable. It is not fair to those people who play by the rules and seek to come here through established safe and legal routes—people who, through the various routes that the Government have available, pay the application fee, meet the requirements and come here. It is not right when people try to circumvent those rules to come to the United Kingdom.

Undoubtedly, it is challenging to the bandwidth of Government to deal with all those competing pressures. We want to provide sanctuary through our resettlement schemes, and we are very proud of that work. We want to continue to have a fair and balanced migration system where people who play by the rules and meet the requirements can come to the UK. However, that is made harder by people coming to this country illegally. Often that makes it harder to be able to help some of the most vulnerable people from around the world.